There are many time management tools and technologies out there to help you use your time more efficiently.
You should find the ones that work for you and use them. We all need to do this.
But I want so share some ways to think about time, that I find, end up making even more time.
1. Prime time
When are you brilliant?
Prime time is that time of the day when you are most brilliant. Think about when that is for you — first thing in the morning, late at night, some point in the weekend?
It is when you are most creative, focused, energetic; when you can think really clearly and make things happen.
Figure out when your prime time is and then don’t waste it doing email or going to bad meetings! Schedule it for yourself, protect it, and get real work done.
You can get important stuff done more quickly when you do it in prime time. So you gain time that you didn’t spend trying to do important work with less horsepower, when you are not at your best.
2. In-between time
In-between time is those times where you might have a meeting or phone call scheduled every hour on the hour, but they don’t all last an hour, so you end up with nine or 12 minutes before your next meeting.
Many people fall into the trap of thinking that they can’t get anything important done in that small amount of time, so it’s not worth even get started.
Then they use that time to check Facebook or browse the Internet while they wait for their next scheduled thing to start.
Add up all those in-between times in your week. I realized that for me it was at least 30 minutes a day. That’s two and a half hours a week! I would have killed for a two and a half hour time slot in my week to work on stuff. So why was I squandering it?
There are worthwhile things you can do that only take a few minutes. Keep your task list handy for when you get some in-between time, highlight the quickies, and address one each time you get a few minutes.
Or if you don’t have small stuff, just get started on a bigger task. You really don’t need a huge block of time to work on it – it just feels that way.
Recently I started what I thought was a 20-30 minute task when I had four minutes before a phone call just to prove the point to myself that it’s worth getting started. I actually finished it!
Challenge yourself; you’ll be surprised at what you can finish in seven or 12 (or four!) minutes.
It is worth getting started, and you can make hours in your week if you start using this time.
3. Quick networking
People often tell me that they wish they did more networking but they just don’t have time. Here is a challenge to that.
How many emails can you send in five minutes?
When you have a five minute block of time before a meeting, send as many emails as you can to people on your list. It might be one, it might be five. It helps to keep your networking contact list handy.
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Example: It’s been a long time. I was thinking about you and wanted to say Hi. Things are good here. I am in the same job. My daughter just starting school at NYU, and I’m taking surfing lessons. How are you?
How long does that take? Don’t you smile when you get one of these?
If you did this once a day with a five minute “in between time” window, and sent two emails each time, that would be 10 emails per week where you could be reaching out, saying hello, and generally connecting with your network.
That’s about 40 emails per month. Even if you cut that in half, how much better is 20 emails per month – 240 per year – than “not having any time for networking?”
If you are overbooked, you just need to take some time back. Schedule it, and then HIDE. The hiding is the crucial part. It doesn’t work if you don’t hide — the activity knows where to find you.
Stay home, sit in your car, go to a different building. Do your important thinking and planning work in peace.
If you feel like you can’t get away, tell people you have a dentist appointment. It is vital to give yourself time to think. Just being flat-out busy all the time will not allow you to contribute enough value. You’ll just be working.
When you give yourself time to think, you’ll get more (better stuff) done, and you’ll probably think of some ways to save even more time.
5. Fail at more stuff on purpose
If you have 100 things to do, you are only going to do, say, 70 of them. So if you are going to fail at 30 anyway, why not let yourself fail at 40? Is there a big difference in the ultimate outcome?
Since you are not going to get everything done anyway, set the bar a little lower!
Give yourself more breathing room to make sure you get the most important stuff done.
You can, in fact, make more time in your day and week if you think about time differently and choose to optimize how you use your time.
This was originally published on Patty Azzarello’s Business Leadership Blog. Her latest book is Rise: How to be Really Successful at Work and LIKE Your Life. You can find her at email@example.com .